The Journal of Numbers

What a beautiful time of year! Flowers blooming, birds singing, the smell of freshly cut lawns. . ..  We are headed into the Spring season (to some this means Lent, Easter, Resurrection, Passover).  To others, there is an anticipation of baseball season or school soon coming to a close.  Some memories of this season are Biblical, and some are emotional. I will fondly remember my Aunt Beverly’s cherries- in-the- snow dessert, my Uncle Kenny’s grilled smoked ham, and my mom’s five-cup salad. Whether you number guests or recipes or are struggling with fears of world Superpower conflicts this holiday, I pray you are blessed and at peace.

Numbers is more of an obscure book in the Old Testament, and I wondered what we would learn from it while reading it during this season. It is rarely quoted except for the blessing. More than giving someone “things,” the true blessing is God’s closeness and favor. Placing His name on someone was the mark of His presence and asking for God to “keep them” was essential and praiseworthy.  Hear the blessing in chapter 6, verses 24 to 26.

The Lord said to Moses, “Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them: The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace. So, they will put My Name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.’”

The walk through the desert is not as memorable as say, Palm Sunday. We more easily remember the story of Jesus riding in on a Donkey and her colt, triumphantly bringing victory to the city of Jerusalem. We remember the Passion story also but like to relive the moments leading up to it that are more celebratory. The best day, Good Friday, when we are pardoned, freed, and forgiven is not typically “fun” with no decorations or fanfare, yet it is sacrificially of utmost importance. Without understanding the cost, it is hard to apply the benefit or receive the grace. On Good Friday, there is no big feast, but humble repentance and thankfulness serve up well.

I’ve been pondering on the logistics of this book.  It would take quite the organized army to move a million people. The leaders would need to have rules and regulations in place for safety and for everything to flow smoothly. Did you know when the United States president comes into a city it takes almost three months to prepare for it? Thousands of individuals will accompany him, and every inch of his trip will be mapped out. Blocks will need to be cleared, background checks done, criminals notified, hospitals and highways readied, and much more. Alternate routes are meticulously planned. When Jesus went to the cross, his path was set before him. He did not make a plan B, or an escape plan, in case he changed his mind or got a better offer. The ragtag group that accompanied him on his trip into Jerusalem were hoping to have a prime spot in his kingdom. They were part of his entourage after all.  Later, at Calvary, the stragglers who anxiously followed, were afraid of the opposite—guilt by association. Death has a way of thinning the crowds. Only those who really believed came near.

Today, when cities want a president to visit, they have to pony up for some of the expenses. If they cannot provide supplies and staff, then the POTUS will decline coming to their city. It is a royal hassle. Food has to be watched; hotels have to be secured. It is imperative to meet these requirements if they expect the honored guest to dwell with them. The book of Numbers details some elaborate and laborious instructions. It seems excessive to our 21st-century mindset—but it is a condition to live in the sacred place with the King. It will also be impossible without a Savior! To live God’s way, for His glory, daily enjoying His presence, came with regulations so they could understand His character. He was training them to be His people. Living in constant fellowship centered around His presence was something that needed to be explained in great detail. His presence, then and now, is treasured above all. Numbers is not just a history lesson; it is instructions on how to host the Almighty God in your heart and city. Fulfilled with a New Testament understanding of course. What was obvious to them, we don’t even understand because we haven’t seen firsthand the cloud or pillar of fire. (Read Hebrews for how this is fulfilled in Christ.)  

Have you ever read someone else’s journal? It contains dates and events but also some juicy stuff. Numbers is a God-ordained journal that was written by Moses and Aaron to remind the people then and throughout history of God’s will. In the first couple of chapters the leaders and players are all selected. They first established who was going to lead and in what companies. The next instructions given were to let the people know that the God who led them out of Egypt and delivered them from Pharoah would be the same God living, dwelling right in their midst! That’s pretty powerful. The only thing is that He wanted to lead more than just the tent they tried to keep Him in—He wanted to guide and direct every area of their lives because they were going to be His special people—holy and treasured. It wasn’t a demand—but it was a requirement if they were going to have Him, as their leader. His presence still comes with conditions. Holiness is part of that, but we can’t attain that without Christ. The “system” was made so we would reach to something, someone greater than ourselves.

The Israelites are going to go from Egypt to Mount Sinai, then onward to the Promised Land. Its focus includes preparing them for not only worship but military conquest. Their journey went from being faithless to fearless. That is impressive! A nation just coming out of a shut-down and facing battles all around could use these instructions, right?

How do you get more faith when your journey has been stamped with discouragement and death? Can you recover from seasons of grumbling and failure? Does the journey wipe out your trust or build perseverance and tenacity?  The reality that not everyone is coming with you or that you might not make it at all, is very sobering. God said obedience brings promises, sin brings death. Pretty simple formula. The Israelites had many fears, complaints, and worries. We stoically observe that they were whiny murmurers, but a quick reckoning of our last month or year, may look very similar. Would we have lasted under those conditions? Thank God for Grace!

Lately I’ve had trials that stretched my faith and caused some discouragement. My “believer muscle” was a little bent. This inspired me—I read about the “law of Tassels” and what it meant to the Israelites:

38 “Speak to the children of Israel: Tell them to make tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to put a blue thread in the tassels of the corners. 39 And you shall have the tassel, that you may look upon it and remember all the commandments of the Lord and do them, and that you may not follow the harlotry to which your own heart and your own eyes are inclined, 40 and that you may remember and do all My commandments, and be holy for your God. 41 am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: I am the Lord your God.”

Whenever they doubted, they could hold the tassels and recount God’s goodness to them. It was not a magic rabbit’s foot, it was a spiritual discipline, a reminder ritual. I was thankful we don’t have to look for tassels and wear them on our outfits today. Seriously, how would you accessorize that with suits, shoes, and purses? After reading that one morning I went to a Bible study. In the middle of that study, I looked over and the leader had a nice blouse on that had—blue tassels on the front. Trendy and theological! I smiled as she did a lesson on God’s goodness, suddenly aware that God was bringing this lesson to life in that moment. His faithfulness brings hope. His goodness brings trust and peace. Because we are finite—we forget. These tassels are not magical like a rabbit’s foot or idol—they are for a memorial, a reminder that what you see is NOT the end of the story.  That may sound a little quirky, but how does worry look on you? Fear? Discouragement? What is the price of your fear? A tassel may be just the ticket—not to give you faith—but to remind you that you can call on the Faithful One.  A reminder to praise Him. Keep remembering, keep in scripture, keep memorizing and worshiping, not because your actions will earn anything but that any moment you will get the message engrained in your soul that GOD IS FAITHFUL. A FB post this week said, “Noah, don’t you dare get tired, the Heavens are about to give way.” It encouraged me. That ark was a visual reminder for Noah and his neighborhood. Tassels are much smaller—much easier to lug around. Not forever, just until your Heart beats to His word, until your mind catches His message, until every fiber of your being is convinced that He is Lord and trustworthy and soon to return! “Counting Every Blessing—You’ve Been Good to Me” by Rend Collective or “Fearless” by Jasmine Murray could be sung during the reading of this whole book. Is this book still appropriate for us today? We can ask—as a nation are we discouraged? Do we need to stand strong to remember our roots and keep hope alive? It’s time to recount His Great faithfulness.

The call to be faithful is necessary now more than ever. My military dad taught me, “your word is your bond.” I’ve tried to live by that, though I’ve failed many times. I’ve seen God’s faithfulness in family, finances, health, and so much more. When my faithfulness wears out—God is still faithful. Consider the season we now approach. The term “Easter” can easily hide its full meaning. The day we celebrate—when the Savior hung on a bloody cross, is a day when God’s promises came to pass. The day a crucified Savior, CAME ALIVE, resurrected, when ALL hope was lost—that’s a good day to remember. All the journal entries from Moses point, not to bunnies and eggs, but to THAT day. It wasn’t decorated with pastels but dark skies, earthquakes, bloodied sacrificial animals, and the reality that when God says something—it’s going to happen! Just as He promised. Why do churches not market it like that? “Bloody man who saved-my-life day” does not fit on a marquee. “Resurrected Lord who is coming again in the clouds because He said so” is much harder to fit on a bulletin than “Easter.” In spite of the recycled marketing—those who know God is faithful, are eagerly waiting with open eyes and open hearts.

Throughout Numbers we see the words, “they did as the Lord commanded.” Some may be annoyed with the repetitiveness but if we apply it to our lives today, we will do much better if we follow God’s blueprints. Listen to what Jesus said about this, “I have not spoken on My own, but the Father who sent Me has commanded Me what to say and how to say it,” John 12:49.

Those who profess to be His, must live as HIS. Depending, obeying, trusting are the action words we need to know. That comes over a lifetime through study, worship, wise counsel, and most importantly having a relationship with God. Hebrews 11:6 reminds us, “without faith it is impossible to please the Lord.” Having faith comes from knowing the person, character, mind, and actions of the One you are trusting in. Then and now.

If you have sin in your life—please read the other pages of the blog on how to reconcile (or come) to Jesus. Numbers tells us clearly, “Your sin will find you out.” You don’t have to live with shame and regret. If you have sat on the fence, ask God to renew your faith and stir your fire. Wholehearted devotion, according to the book of Numbers—will guarantee blessings and success. His promises—He never breaks them; you can count on it. If you are wholehearted, don’t stop there. Ask for more! Pray for more! Receive more as you worship!  Let God lead and guide you on the journey He planned for you since the very beginning.  The Commander in Chief still reigns. Ephesians 2:6-10 explains it like this:

And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,  in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

For the students studying this book, be sure to deeply dive into the section on the blood avenger.  It is relevant for our cities today and will help your understanding of the importance of the blood. Also note the promise of the Messiah to come: “A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel” (Numbers 24:17). God is not caught off guard by circumstances, news stories, indictments, slander, isms, power struggles or politics. He has always had a plan. Sovereign means He has NOT relinquished His control—no matter what things look like today.  If you go back further in Genesis 49:10 you will get a little surprise Easter treat that is much sweeter than any Easter egg. It will give you strategy for today also. Tis the season—to get happy and realize that the Sovereign Lord who reigns over the nations is also a military warrior, fully in control and victorious. All day, every day, 365.

The King’s journey started way back in this precious journal with the promise of His faithfulness that to those who were obedient, holy, and set apart, He would dwell with them. His path to make them holy came through His son Jesus. This same God will make a path to send the King once again to bring His people home to His dwelling where He will reign forevermore. We must learn in this hour how to journey with Jesus, to follow His commands, and walk in His spirit.

Jesus, make us faithful and fearless. We choose to follow you by faith—now.